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Profile: University of Michigan

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University of Michigan was a participant or observer in the following events:

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, research assistant Nicklaus Suino of the University of Michigan suffers burns and shrapnel wounds when he opens a package bomb at the home of psychology professor James V. McConnell. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 1998] The bombing will later be shown to be the work of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). McConnell may be one of Kaczynski’s most personal targets. McConnell is a rich, flamboyant, and somewhat eccentric professor who espouses controversial theories about human behavior modification based on his research with flatworms. McConnell taught at the University of Michigan when Kaczynski was taking graduate courses in mathematics there. The package mailed to McConnell’s house comes with a one-page letter taped to the top, bearing a Salt Lake City postmark and reading in part: “I’d like you to read this book. Everybody in your position should read this book.” McConnell asks Suino to open it. The resulting explosion injures Suino; McConnell escapes with slight, temporary hearing loss but is profoundly shaken by the incident. [Washington Post, 4/14/1996]

Entity Tags: Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, James V. McConnell, Nicklaus Suino, University of Michigan

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Dick Wolf.Dick Wolf. [Source: Deadline]Writers at NBC work on a five-hour big-budget drama miniseries called Terror, which will be about Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda group committing a series of terrorist attacks in New York. [Variety, 9/10/2001; Los Angeles, 4/2002; USA Today, 12/5/2002] Terror will combine the casts of all three of NBC’s Law & Order crime drama series: the original show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. [Entertainment Weekly, 9/7/2001; Variety, 9/10/2001]
Story Includes Attack Killing over 1,000 in New York - The storyline the writers come up with begins at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. There, a man who is a devotee of bin Laden tells a group of children that he is going to America on a mission for Allah, which the whole world will know about soon. Using a United Arab Emirates passport, he then enters the US across the Canadian border in a rental car. After arriving in New York, he sets off explosives in the subway under Times Square, killing over 1,000 people. [Los Angeles, 4/2002; USA Today, 12/5/2002] Clues then lead to a bioterrorist release of anthrax being discovered. The story culminates in the threat of a release of smallpox.
Filming to Begin in September - Terror is intended to be broadcast in May 2002 as a two-hour movie on a Sunday followed by one-hour episodes over the next three nights. According to Dick Wolf, the creator of Law & Order, the miniseries will have a large budget. “[T]his is expensive,” he will later say. [Variety, 3/19/2001; Variety, 9/10/2001] NBC is scheduled to begin filming in late September this year, according to some accounts. [Knight Ridder, 9/14/2001; Los Angeles, 4/2002] Wolf will say that filming is set to begin on September 24. [USA Today, 12/5/2002] But according to CNN, it is scheduled to begin the week after 9/11. [CNN, 9/9/2002]
Show's Creator Suggested Terrorism Storyline - The proposed show came about after Wolf was contacted earlier this year by Steve White, NBC’s executive vice president for movies, miniseries, and special projects, and asked if he had any ideas for a five-hour miniseries. Wolf suggested “terrorism in New York City,” which was a story he had “long wanted to do,” according to Los Angeles magazine. “[T]he only story I could think of that justified five hours is terrorism,” Wolf will comment. White agreed to the idea. When Wolf then told Neal Baer, one of Law & Order’s executive producers, that he wanted to do a miniseries about terrorism, Baer said the miniseries “should be [about] bioterrorism.”
Writers Spend Two Days in New York Working on Story - In June 2001, Wolf gets together with a number of his colleagues, including Baer and several writers, in New York, to develop the storyline for Terror. Wolf has already come up with a 40-page outline for the miniseries. Now, the group spends two days working on it. [Variety, 9/10/2001; Los Angeles, 4/2002] By August, according to Baer, “we were really deeply involved in the story.” Baer will recall that those working on the miniseries “would joke that we hoped the real thing didn’t pre-empt our work. Obviously, we had no idea of what was to come.” [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 pdf file]
NBC Does Extensive Research for Show - NBC spends nine months conducting meticulous research for Terror, according to Wolf. [Variety, 9/10/2001] Baer talks to experts at the Rand Corporation think tank, hires a consultant from Stanford University, and reads books on biological warfare. [Los Angeles, 4/2002] Those involved with the miniseries also talk with experts at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia. [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 pdf file] And, according to Wolf, they talk to “top law enforcement people on the state, federal, and local levels” about bioterrorism. [Variety, 9/10/2001] Baer will comment that as a result of their extensive research, “We knew a lot of things most people didn’t know, because we spoke with so many experts all over the country.” At one point, the team working on the miniseries is talked to by the FBI, “because our accumulation of so much information raised a red flag.” [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 pdf file]
Miniseries Canceled in Response to 9/11 - Terror will be canceled less than a week after the 9/11 attacks. [Variety, 9/17/2001] It is one of a number of television dramas and movies featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten following 9/11 (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Denver Post, 9/17/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001] Baer and others involved with the show are actually in New York, only a couple of miles away from the World Trade Center, on the morning of September 11, doing planning work for the miniseries (see (8:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/9/2002]

Entity Tags: University of Minnesota, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dick Wolf, University of Michigan, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RAND Corporation, Johns Hopkins University, NBC, Neal Baer, Stanford University

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A defaced photograph of Chris Armstrong, posted on an Internet blog by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell.A defaced photograph of Chris Armstrong, posted on an Internet blog by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell. [Source: Think Progress]Andrew Shirvell, the assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan, wages an Internet campaign against a gay college student. In April, Shirvell, identifying himself as “Concerned Michigan Alumnus,” begins posting a series of attacks on his blog against Chris Armstrong, an openly gay student at the University of Michigan, after Armstrong is elected student assembly president. Shirvell’s opening post reads in part: “Welcome to ‘Chris Armstrong Watch.‘… This is a site for concerned University of Michigan alumni, students, and others who oppose the recent election of Chris Armstrong—a RADICAL HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVIST, RACIST, ELITIST, & LIAR—as the new head of student government.” (Capitals in the original.) [CNN, 9/30/2010] (The blog is later restricted to invited members only.) [Andrew Shirvell, 9/2010] In subsequent posts, Shirvell attacks Armstrong for allegedly engaging in “flagrant sexual promiscuity” with another male member of student government; going back on campaign promises; sexually seducing and influencing “a previously conservative [male] student” so much so that the student “morphed into a proponent of the radical homosexual agenda”; hosting a gay orgy in his dorm room in October 2009; and trying to recruit incoming first year students “to join the homosexual ‘lifestyle.’” Shirvell posts a picture of Armstrong with the word “Resign” scrawled over his face, and another with “Racist Elitist Liar” over his face; the picture includes a gay pride flag with a swastika superimposed over it and an arrow pointing to Armstrong, a clear indication that Shirvell associates Armstrong with Nazism. Shirvell also acknowledges protesting outside of Armstrong’s house and calling him “Satan’s representative on the student assembly.” Shirvell makes a number of calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office while Armstrong works there as an intern, in what an investigation finds is “an attempt to slander Armstrong—and ultimately attempting to cause Pelosi to fire Armstrong,” according to Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. Cox goes on to note that Shirvell has attempted to “out” Armstrong’s friends as being homosexual, even though several aren’t gay. In late September, asked about Shirvell’s six-month Internet attack against a college student, Cox says in a statement: “Mr. Shirvell’s personal opinions are his and his alone and do not reflect the views of the Michigan Department of Attorney General. But his immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office are clear.” Shirvell says his blog posts are personal and have nothing to do with his job. “I’m a Christian citizen exercising my First Amendment rights,” he tells CNN. “I have no problem with the fact that Chris is a homosexual. I have a problem with the fact that he’s advancing a radical homosexual agenda.” Asked directly if he is a bigot, Shirvell responds: “The real bigot here is Chris Armstrong. I don’t have any hate in my body at all.” Governor Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) says she would fire Shirvell if she were attorney general. Armstrong seeks a restraining order against Shirvell, who has been banned from entering the Michigan college campus, asking that Shirvell be kept from harassing him at home or other places he frequents. Campus police are investigating Shirvell for harassment and stalking. On October 1, Shirvell takes a voluntary leave of absence after the national media begins reporting his harassment of Armstrong. [Think Progress, 9/29/2010; CNN, 9/30/2010; AnnArbor.com, 10/1/2010] On his blog “Pharyngula,” biology professor P. Z. Myers of the University of Minnesota writes: “The scary part is that Armstrong is just the student body president… a position with almost no power. Shirvell is an assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan. Let’s just hope that that is the peak of his political career.” [P.Z. Myers, 9/29/2010] Shirvell will be fired in November (see November 8, 2010).

Entity Tags: P.Z. Myers, Jennifer Granholm, Mike Cox, Chris Armstrong, Andrew Shirvell, Nancy Pelosi, University of Michigan

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Assistant state attorney Andrew Shirvell of Michigan is fired for harassing the student assembly president of the University of Michigan, Chris Armstrong. Armstrong is gay; since April, Shirvell has conducted a campaign of harassment at him over his homosexuality, veracity, and other personal attributes (see April 1 - October 1, 2010). Shirvell maintains he was merely exercising his freedom of speech. Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox fires Shirvell after the first day of a mandatory disciplinary hearing for him. Cox says that Shirvell’s firing comes after a state investigation revealed that Shirvell “repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior, and inappropriately used state resources.” Shirvell also told a number of lies during the disciplinary hearing. Cox adds, “To be clear, I refuse to fire anyone for exercising their First Amendment rights, regardless of how popular or unpopular their positions might be.” Cox says Shirvell crossed the boundaries of free speech when he repeatedly went to Armstrong’s home to verbally abuse him, including one visit at 1:30 a.m. “That incident is especially telling because it clearly was about harassing Mr. Armstrong, not engaging in free speech,” Cox says. Armstrong says Shirvell videotaped a late-night party at his home, appeared on campus with signs calling him a “racist” and a “liar,” and repeatedly vilified him on Internet blogs. Armstrong says the state should revoke Shirvell’s law license. A statement from the attorney general’s office says, “The next step must be a complete retraction of all the malicious lies and fabrications by Mr. Shirvell, and a public apology to Mr. Armstrong, his family and others Mr. Shirvell has slandered.” Shirvell’s lawyer says his client is considering appealing the decision to fire him to the Michigan Civil Service Commission, and says Shirvell believes the decision to fire him was politically motivated. Cox says, “The cumulative effects of his use of state resources, harassing conduct that is not protected by the First Amendment, and his lies during the disciplinary conference all demonstrate adequate evidence of conduct unbecoming a state employee.” Shirvell is prohibited by a restraining order from making physical or verbal contact with Armstrong, nor is he allowed to be in the same place as the student when it’s likely Armstrong will be present. [Associated Press, 11/8/2010]

Entity Tags: University of Michigan, Andrew Shirvell, Mike Cox, Chris Armstrong

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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